1 Realistic Free-Agent Signing to Fix All 30 MLB Teams' Biggest Remaining Issue

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 30, 2016

1 Realistic Free-Agent Signing to Fix All 30 MLB Teams' Biggest Remaining Issue

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    With the winter meetings set to kick off next week (barring a work stoppage) and myriad action already taking place this offseason, the MLB offseason is undoubtedly in full swing with the month of December now just around the corner.

    A number of teams have already made significant additions to better position themselves for the season ahead, but all 30 clubs still have at least one glaring hole to fill between now and the start of spring training.

    So with that in mind, what follows is a look at one realistic free-agent signing that each team could make to fix the biggest remaining issue on the roster.

Arizona Diamondbacks: RP Neftali Feliz

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    With Brad Ziegler, Tyler Clippard and Daniel Hudson all gone from last year's bullpen, the Arizona Diamondbacks have a glaring hole to fill at the back of the bullpen.

    The team is not expected to spend big this winter after breaking the bank for Zack Greinke last offseason, but that doesn't mean that it can't find its next closer in a deep pool of free-agent relievers.

    Joaquin Benoit, Sergio Romo, Koji Uehara and the aforementioned Ziegler all offer closer's experience at a second-tier price, while Drew Storen and Fernando Rodney are potential bounce-back candidates who could be had for next to nothing.

    However, we're going to go with someone that offers a bit more upside in Neftali Feliz.

    Once one of the most promising young pitchers in the game during his time with the Texas Rangers, Feliz missed significant time to injury and wound up landing with the Pittsburgh Pirates last offseason on a one-year, $3.9 million deal in his first trip through free agency.

    Finally healthy and working with pitching coach Ray Searage, Feliz rebounded nicely with a 3.52 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 10.2 K/9 while racking up 29 holds as one of the team's primary setup options.

    The 28-year-old still has the same power stuff he did during his days closing in Texas, with an average fastball velocity of 96.1 mph and a biting slider.

    The D-Backs look like the perfect place for him to get a second chance at the ninth-inning job.

Atlanta Braves: RP Tim Collins

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    As a rebuilding team unlikely to be a legitimate contender for a postseason spot this coming season, the Atlanta Braves can take some chances on the free-agent market.

    Ian Krol is currently the only left-hander penciled into the bullpen, so adding a second southpaw to the relief corps ranks among their biggest remaining needs.

    Aroldis Chapman, Jerry Blevins, Mike Dunn, Travis Wood and Boone Logan are the top names on the market and all five will command multiyear deals.

    Instead, rolling the dice on someone like Tim Collins would make more sense given the current state of the franchise.

    Collins appeared in 228 games for the Kansas City Royals from 2011 to 2014, posting a 3.54 ERA and an impressive 9.4 K/9, though he struggled at times with his command with a 5.2 BB/9 that led to a 1.40 WHIP.

    A pair of Tommy John surgeries have kept Collins on the sidelines since 2014, and now he's looking to make a comeback.

    He's still just 27 years old and his strikeout stuff gives him plenty of upside, making him the perfect non-roster invitee and bullpen candidate for the Braves.

Baltimore Orioles: C Nick Hundley

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    The Baltimore Orioles could use another arm in the starting rotation and at least one more corner outfield bat, but the most pressing need on the roster is at the catcher position.

    The departure of Matt Wieterswho has been the team's primary catcher since 2009—leaves the team without an established starter, unless they feel comfortable with Caleb Joseph seeing regular playing time.

    Considering the 30-year-old posted a .413 OPS last season over 141 plate appearances, the lowest OPS in baseball among the 438 players who tallied at least 100 plate appearances, that seems unlikely.

    Top prospect Chance Sisco is the future at the position and he's coming off a strong offensive season in his first extended look at the Double-A level. His receiving skills are still a work in progress, though, and it appears he's at least a year away.

    That leaves the O's to search for a stopgap veteran on the free-agent market and Nick Hundley appears to be their No. 1 target, according to Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com.

    Hundley spent part of the 2014 season with the Orioles, so there's some level of familiarity there.

    The 33-year-old is coming off a two-year, $6.25 million deal with the Colorado Rockies that saw him hit .282/.330/.455 while averaging 20 doubles, 10 home runs and 46 RBI per season.

Boston Red Sox: DH/OF Carlos Beltran

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    The search for a David Ortiz replacement continues for the Boston Red Sox.

    According to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, the team is "probably" not going to be a finalist in the Edwin Encarnacion sweepstakes.

    With that in mind, coming to terms with switch-hitting veteran Carlos Beltran is looking more and more likely.

    While he'll be entering his age-40 season, Beltran was still producing at a high level this past season, posting an .850 OPS with 33 doubles, 29 home runs and 93 RBI.

    He's still capable of playing the outfield, though nowhere near the Gold Glove level he performed at earlier in his career. That wouldn't matter in Boston, where the Red Sox would ask him to be the primary DH and that could be his preferred role at this point in his career.

    Beltran is also still chasing a World Series ring and among the teams listed as finalists for his services, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post—the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros and Rangers—Boston might give him the best chance of winning one.

    A .335/.377/.555 career batting line in Fenway Park should serve as further incentive to join the BoSox.

Chicago Cubs: RP Boone Logan

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    The Chicago Cubs may yet surprise everyone and make a play for one of the top-tier closers on the free-agent market, but right now their most pressing need is finding a left-hander to replace Travis Wood.

    Wood may seem like an obvious candidate to be re-signed after his stellar performance this past season, but he'll get a chance to latch on somewhere as a starter in such a weak free-agent marketand that's a role the Cubs can't offer him.

    Rookie Rob Zastryzny pitched well in limited action last season, posting a 1.12 ERA and 1.06 WHIP with 17 strikeouts in 16 innings of work and will get a shot to break camp with a spot in the bullpen.

    Still, adding a proven veteran setup man from the left side seems like a must.

    Jerry Blevins, Boone Logan and Mike Dunn are the top options on the free-agent market, with Logan perhaps the most appealing of that group for the Cubs.

    The 32-year-old posted a 3.69 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 11.1 K/9 last season while pitching for the Colorado Rockies and may be able to be had for slightly less than what Blevins will command after he posted better numbers.

    That being said, Logan was pitching half of his games in Coors Field and has a more impressive track record, albeit with some bumps along the way.

    A two-year, $12 million deal seems more than reasonable to address the team's most glaring need.

Chicago White Sox: CF Carlos Gomez

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    Even if the Chicago White Sox decide to go all-in on rebuilding this offseason, they will still need to add a few pieces to the puzzle to fill out the lineup for 2017.

    That makes a potential bounce-back candidate like Carlos Gomez an attractive target, as he could turn into another valuable trade chip if he builds off a strong finish to the 2016 season.

    The 30-year-old was released on Aug. 18 after posting a dismal .594 OPS over 323 plate appearances with the Houston Astros.

    The Texas Rangers, in search of outfield help after Shin-Soo Choo went down with an injury, scooped him up two days later and he went on to hit .284/.362/.543 with eight home runs and 24 RBI in 33 games with the team.

    That makes him one of the more intriguing free agents on the market. While he may receive some multiyear offers, a one-year, prove-it type deal could make more sense from his standpoint.

    The White Sox have a rather glaring hole in center field and no clear in-house option to man the position, so rolling the dice on Gomez and potentially flipping him at the deadline makes sense.

Cincinnati Reds: RP Shawn Tolleson

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    The bright spots were few and far between for the Cincinnati Reds during a 94-loss season.

    Among them was the emergence of Michael Lorenzen (35 G, 2.88 ERA, 8.6 K/9) and Raisel Iglesias (37 G, 2.53 ERA, 9.5 K/9) as a solid one-two punch at the back of the bullpen, and those two young arms should anchor the relief corps once again in 2017.

    The bullpen would benefit from adding a quality veteran or two, but with the rebuilding efforts in full swing, the team won't be looking to spend any significant money on relievers.

    That could make Shawn Tolleson the perfect target.

    The 28-year-old was brilliant for the Texas Rangers in 2015, converting 35 of 37 save chances with a 2.99 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 9.5 K/9 to finish 10th in AL Cy Young voting.

    The wheels fell off this past season, though, as his ERA ballooned to 7.68 over 37 appearances and he was quickly removed from the closer's role in favor of Sam Dyson.

    He's worth taking a chance on with an incentive-laden minor league deal, and the Reds could be an attractive landing place for him to rebuild some value as he'll be afforded every opportunity to be a key piece of the pen.

Cleveland Indians: 1B Mike Napoli

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    The Cleveland Indians truly found a diamond in the rough when they signed Mike Napoli to a one-year, $7 million deal last offseason.

    The veteran slugger posted an .800 OPS with 34 home runs and 101 RBI, giving the team the right-handed run producer it has been missing since the Manny Ramirez days.

    The 35-year-old was not extended a qualifying offer, but that does not a preclude the two sides from agreeing to a new deal by any means.

    "We have a desire to have him here, and my sense is that he has a desire to be here," GM Mike Chernoff said of Napoli to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com earlier this month.

    According to Buster Olney of ESPN, Napoli is currently seeking a three-year deal, while the Indians would prefer to limit their commitment to a one-year pact.

    Assuming no one comes forward with a willingness to go to three years, it's easy to see the two sides meeting in the middle on a two-year deal in the $24 million neighborhood.

Colorado Rockies: RP Brad Ziegler

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    Convincing one of the top-tier closers to come to Colorado will be essentially impossible, but a secondary option to bolster the Rockies' bullpen could be veteran Brad Ziegler.

    The 37-year-old sidewinder has plenty of experience closing, including 52 saves over the past two seasons, and his ground-ball abilities make him a good fit in Coors Field.

    Among pitchers with at least 40 innings of work in 2016, Ziegler ranked seventh with a 63.3 percent ground-ball rate, according to FanGraphs.

    Plenty of teams will be courting him as a setup man, but the Rockies might be one of the few teams willing to hand him the closer's job.

    The Colorado relief corps ranked last in the majors with a 5.13 ERA this past season, converting just 37 of 65 save chances in the process and undermining the high-powered offense and a vastly improved starting rotation.

    The front office showed a willingness to spend on the bullpen last winter when the team signed Jason Motte (two years, $10 million) and Chad Qualls (two years, $6 million), while also acquiring Jake McGee from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson.

    Those moves failed to plug the leaky pen, so expect more attention to be paid there this winter.

Detroit Tigers: CF Austin Jackson

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    While the Detroit Tigers are still actively looking to trim payroll this offseason, they are also expected to make a push to contend in 2017 as they simply have too much money committed to the roster to go into full-on rebuilding mode at this point.

    That means adding while subtracting, and they'll be looking for bargains on the free-agent market to fill their biggest areas of need.

    Tops on that list is finding an established center fielder to compete with the likes of Tyler Collins, Steven Moya, JaCoby Jones and Anthony Gose this spring for the starting job.

    Carlos Gomez, Rajai Davis, Michael Bourn, Coco Crisp, Austin Jackson and Desmond Jennings are among the players who could fall into their price range.

    Jackson is the name we'll focus on here.

    The 29-year-old was once a budding star for the Tigers, hitting .300/.377/.479 with 29 doubles, 10 triples, 16 home runs and 66 RBI during the 2012 season.

    He's never matched that level of production, but he remains an intriguing buy-low candidate thanks to his mix of power and speed and the fact that he's still relatively young.

Houston Astros: SP/RP Travis Wood

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    The Houston Astros have been as aggressive as anyone in the early stages of the offseason, but there's still work to be done.

    Regression from 2015 AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel left the team without a bona fide staff ace this past season. There have been plenty of rumblings about the team potentially making a play for one of the top arms on the trade market.

    However, if that doesn't happen, they'll still need to add some starting pitching depthand a swingman like Travis Wood could be the perfect fit.

    A down season from Tony Sipp (60 G, 4.95 ERA, 1.60 WHIP) leaves the bullpen without a late-inning lefty and Wood is coming off a season where he posted a 2.95 ERA and 1.13 WHIP with 12 holds in 77 games for the Chicago Cubs.

    He'd give the bullpen the second left-hander they need, while also serving as depth as someone capable of starting if needed.

    The 29-year-old was an All-Star as recently as 2013 when he went 9-12 with a 3.11 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 200 innings for a 96-loss Cubs team.

    Other teams may be willing to offer him a guaranteed spot in the rotation, but the Astros might offer a better chance of winning while still leaving the door open for him to potentially slide into the rotation at some point.

Kansas City Royals: SP Jhoulys Chacin

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    The Kansas City Royals crashed back to reality in 2016 after back-to-back World Series trips, and now they're faced with working around an inflated payroll.

    "(GM Dayton) Moore said the club had been living above its means in payroll and that the team’s 2017 spending would likely 'regress a little bit' after a record high in 2016," wrote Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star.

    With Eric Hosmer, Danny Duffy and Kelvin Herrera all due sizable raises in arbitration and 2016 signings Alex Gordon and Ian Kennedy making a combined $10 million more this coming season on back-loaded deals, there's not much room for outside additions.

    However, there is a rather glaring need to upgrade the starting rotation.

    The Royals finished 22nd in the league with a 4.67 starters' ERA and have at least one rotation spot to fill after the departure of Edinson Volquez.

    Jhoulys Chacin provided 144.0 innings of 4.81 ERA ball last season after making the Atlanta Braves as a non-roster invitee and then joining the Los Angeles Angels in a rare May trade.

    A 4.01 FIP makes the 28-year-old an intriguing buy-low candidate. Even in this market, he shoudn't cost more than a couple million on a one-year deal.

Los Angeles Angels: 2B Chase Utley

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    The second base position was an absolute black hole for the Los Angeles Angels this past season.

    The likes of Johnny Giavotella, Cliff Pennington, Gregorio Petit and Kaleb Cowart combined for an abysmal .235/.275/.345 with 10 home runs and 47 RBI, and as things currently stand Pennington is penciled in as the likely starter.

    Meanwhile, the team also got next to nothing in the way of production from the left-handed hitters not named Kole Calhoun:

    • Calhoun: .271/.348/.438, 161 H, 35 2B, 18 HR, 75 RBI
    • Other LHH: .205/.266/.305, 152 H, 32 2B, 12 HR, 68 RBI

    That could make veteran Chase Utley the perfect target as they look to upgrade the keystone and bring a bit more balance to the lineup.

    Utley posted a respectable .716 OPS with 26 doubles, 14 home runs and 52 RBI for a 2.0 WAR.

    The Angels were interested in Utley in 2015. While a reunion with the Los Angeles Dodgers still looks like the most likely outcome for the 37-year-old this winter, he'd be a great fit from the Angels' point of view.

Los Angeles Dodgers: 3B Justin Turner

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    If there's one player the Los Angeles Dodgers should prioritize re-signing among their numerous free agents, it's third baseman Justin Turner.

    The fact that he's entering his age-32 season and offers a limited track record of success makes him far from the perfect player to shell out big bucks on, but the lack of other options at the third base position pushes striking a new deal with him to the top of the to-do list.

    Turner joined the Dodgers three years ago after being non-tendered by the New York Mets. He surpassed 500 plate appearances for the first time in his career in 2016.

    The result was a .275/.339/.493 line that included 34 doubles, 27 home runs and 90 RBI, which coupled with his stellar defense at the hot corner added up to a 4.9 WAR and a ninth-place finish in NL MVP voting.

    The alternatives on the free-agent market are Luis Valbuena and Trevor Plouffe, while veterans like Evan Longoria, Todd Frazier and Mike Moustakas could hypothetically be available on the trade market but at a steep price.

    MLB Trade Rumors predicted a five-year, $85 million deal for Turner this offseason, and the Dodgers would be wise to bite the bullet and pay up.

Miami Marlins: SP/RP Travis Wood

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    The Miami Marlins have already added one piece to the rotation this offseason, signing Edinson Volquez to a two-year, $22 million deal earlier this week.

    He'll join incumbents Wei-Yin Chen, Adam Conley and Tom Koehler, leaving one spot still to be filled.

    So who else could the team target in its search for reasonably priced pitching help?

    "If the Marlins don't stop with Volquez, free agents such as Doug FisterIvan NovaTravis WoodJonathon Niese and Justin Masterson could be fits. So are pitchers coming back from injuries, such as lefty C.J. Wilson," wrote Joe Frisaro of MLB.com.

    With the bullpen also in need of a quality left-hander following the departure of Mike Dunn, signing Wood now and determining his role this spring would give the team some nice flexibility.

    They could continue to search the starting pitching market and deploy Wood as the primary lefty setup man if someone else is signed, or stretch him out this spring and use him as the No. 5 starter if no other outside additions are made.

Milwaukee Brewers: 3B Luis Valbuena

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    The Milwaukee Brewers have some decisions to make on the infield.

    Orlando Arcia will be the everyday shortstop next season, leaving Scooter Gennett and Jonathan Villar to battle for the starting second base job. Villar saw some time at third base in the second half, but that doesn't appear to be an option going forward.

    "The Brewers have decided Jonathan Villar is not their future third baseman after experimenting with him over there," wrote Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball.

    That leaves a logjam at second and a hole and third, and Luis Valbuena could be the perfect free-agent target for a number of reasons.

    The 31-year-old initially profiled as the starting third baseman, but if the team moves Ryan Braun, it could shift Eric Thames to left field and Valbuena's ability to play both corner infield spots would then give added flexibility in how the infield is aligned.

    Valbuena posted an .816 OPS with 17 doubles, 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances last season with the Houston Astros.

Minnesota Twins: RP Drew Storen

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    With All-Star closer Glen Perkins sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Minnesota Twins turned to journeyman reliever Brandon Kintzler to fill the closer's role for much of the 2016 season.

    The 32-year-old did an admirable job, converting 17 of 20 save chances with a 3.15 ERA and 1.23 WHIP over 54 appearances, but it doesn't appear the team is planning on returning him to that role in 2017.

    "We have somebody on our roster, Brandon Kintzler, who stepped in and did a nice job in 2016," assistant GM Rob Antony told Phil Miller of the Star Tribune. "I’m not sure we see him as a closer. I don’t think we’ve penciled in anybody."

    Perkins underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in June and he's still hoping to be ready to start throwing in March, but the Twins can't rely on him to be the ninth-inning guy this coming season.

    The Twins won't be in a position to push for Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen or Mark Melancon, so expect them to instead do some bargain hunting.

    Drew Storen is one bounce-back candidate who is capable of holding down the closer's role if he returns to form.

    The 29-year-old saved 29 games with a 3.44 ERA and 11.0 K/9 in 2015, but struggled mightily after being traded to the Blue Jays last offseason, posting a 6.21 ERA in 38 games with Toronto.

    He was traded to the Seattle Mariners at the deadline and was able to right the ship down the stretch, pitching to a 3.44 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in 19 appearances with his new team.

    Even on something like a one-year, $5 million deal with some incentives for saves, Storen could provide great value and a potential trade chip.

New York Mets: RP Jerry Blevins

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    Jerry Blevins was quietly terrific for the New York Mets this past season.

    The 33-year-old appeared in 73 games, posting a 2.79 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and a career-best 11.1 K/9 with 16 holds and two saves after re-signing with the team on a one-year, $4 million deal last winter.

    This time around, he'll likely be looking at a multiyear deal and at least a couple million dollars more per year, and the Mets would be wise to pony up.

    With the No. 1 priority taken care of now that Yoenis Cespedes was re-signed to a four-year, $110 million deal, per ESPN.com, re-signing Blevins or finding a quality lefty to round out the bullpen looks like the most pressing need.

    Blevins has been a solid reliever throughout his 10-year MLB career, and he's more than just a LOOGY after holding right-handed hitters to a .182 average and .611 OPS this past season.

    Retaining him should be an easy decision, as long as his asking price doesn't stretch beyond two years or exceed $6 million per season.

New York Yankees: SP Jason Hammel

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    With Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda, the New York Yankees have three rotation spots locked in for the 2017 season.

    That currently leaves some combination of Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Severino, Luis Cessa and Adam Warren to round out the staff.

    Ideally that group would be competing for one spot in the rotation, not two, so look for the Yankees to add a proven veteran to the mix before the offseason is over.

    Rich Hill and Jason Hammel are the two free-agent starters who the club has been linked to so far this offseason, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.

    MLB Trade Rumors predicted a three-year contract for both pitchers, with Hill ($50 million) projected for slightly more money than Hammel ($42 million), despite the fact that he's two years older.

    Assuming the Yankees are going to make a serious push to sign either Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen which could take a contract approaching $100 million—they might prefer not to get in a bidding war over Hill, who could easily surpass that $50 million price tag as the top starter on the market.

    Hammel, 34, may not be the ideal fit on the Yankees given his relatively high home run rate, but he's a durable veteran who can eat innings while the team continues to retool. He'd give the team a more reliable option to fill the No. 4 spot on the staff.

Oakland Athletics: CF Carlos Gomez

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    The Oakland Athletics will be working around a shoestring budget once again this offseason, but that doesn't mean they'll be completely silent in free agency.

    Center field is the one spot that obviously needs to be upgraded.

    Brett Eibner, Jake Smolinski, prospect Jaycob Brugman and non-roster invitee Jaff Decker represent the best of the in-house options, so expect a veteran addition of some sort.

    Veterans Michael Bourn, Austin Jackson and familiar face Coco Crisp represent the most cost-effective options at the position capable of seeing regular playing time.

    However, this could be a spot where the A's roll the dice on a bounce-back candidate, an avenue where the team has been willing to invest in the past.

    Carlos Gomez might prefer a more hitter-friendly home ballpark as he looks to rebuild his stock, but he makes sense as a target for the A's.

    If he signs a one-year deal it's a low-risk move for the franchise. If he builds off his strong finish to 2016, the team has a valuable trade chip when the deadline rolls around.

Philadelphia Phillies: RF Jose Bautista

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    The Philadelphia Phillies could look to make a splash this winter by adding a veteran bat to their otherwise young lineup, which is currently headlined by Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco.

    A corner outfielder would be the most obvious choice, especially if Cesar Hernandez winds up traded and Howie Kendrick is slotted at second base.

    Either way, signing someone like Jose Bautista could give the Phillies an edge they're currently missing, while providing some valuable veteran leadership to their young core.

    The 36-year-old might have a long wait ahead of him in free agency, as he's not going to get anything remotely close to the five-year, $150 million asking price that was reported by Rick Westhead of TSN.ca.

    If he's still sitting on the free-agent market when the calendar turns over to 2017, the Phillies might be able to swoop in with something like a three-year, $50 million offer and get a deal done.

    That won't hamstring them from a payroll standpoint as they continue to rebuild, while Bautista still gets a nice payday even after a somewhat disappointing 2016 season.

Pittsburgh Pirates: SP Derek Holland

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    This is a big offseason for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison have both seen their names pop up in trade rumors as the team could look to shed some payroll, while the starting rotation is priority No. 1 as it pushes to contend once again with a largely unproven staff behind ace Gerrit Cole.

    The Pirates have had as much success as anyone with pitcher reclamation projects and they'll no doubt be eyeing another potential bargain this winter as they look to add some experience to staff.

    One name that has popped up early this offseason as a potential target is left-hander Derek Holland.

    The left-hander was still a productive part of the Rangers rotation as recently as 2013, when he went 10-9 with a 3.42 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 189 strikeouts over a career-high 213.0 innings of work.

    However, injuries have taken their toll in the years since.

    A knee injury limited the 30-year-old to 37.0 innings in 2014 and a shoulder injury capped him at 58.2 innings in 2015.

    While left shoulder inflammation earned him a trip to the 60-day disabled list once again this past season, he still managed to make 20 starts, albeit with middling results. He went 7-9 with a 4.95 ERA and 1.41 WHIP over 107.1 innings.

    Holland has expressed interest in joining the Pirates, per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, so if the price is right that could be where he lands.

San Diego Padres: SP Clayton Richard

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    Clayton Richard opened the 2016 season as part of the Chicago Cubs bullpen but finished it as part of the San Diego Padres starting rotation.

    The 33-year-old was released by the Cubs on Aug. 3 after pitching to a 6.43 ERA over 25 appearances and the pitching-starved Padres scooped him up three days later.

    After a pair of relief appearances Richard moved into the starting rotation and went 3-3 with a 2.41 ERA in 52.1 innings over nine starts to close out the season.

    Those nine starts were accompanied by a 1.49 WHIP and a 3.8 BB/9 walk rate as there was more than a little luck on his side, but overall Richard posted a solid 4.17 FIP in 67.2 innings of work in 2016.

    The left-hander enjoyed the best seasons of his career during his first go-around in San Diego, including a 2012 season where he was 14-14 with a 3.99 ERA and 1.24 WHIP over 218.2 innings of work.

    It probably won't cost much more than the $2 million he made this past season to bring him back. For a Padres team with a largely unsettled starting rotation, that's a worthwhile investment if only for his innings-eating potential.

San Francisco Giants: RP Mark Melancon

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    If there's one free-agent signing I'm most confident about happening, now that Yoenis Cespedes has found his way back to the New York Mets, it's Mark Melancon signing with the San Francisco Giants.

    The bidding war for Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen could take some time to unfold and the Giants are in desperate need of a reliable ninth-inning option.

    Rather than waiting around to make a play for one of those two top-tier guys and risk missing out on both, making a proactive move now to sign Melancon makes a lot of sense.

    And to his credit, the 31-year-old has been every bit as effective when it comes to closing out games. Here's how the three stack up since the start of 2013:

    • Chapman: 143/156 SV, 91.7 SV%, 1.93 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 15.8 K/9
    • Jansen: 155/172 SV, 90.1 SV%, 2.19 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 13.6 K/9
    • Melancon: 147/162 SV, 90.1 SV%, 1.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 8.3 K/9

    Chapman and Jansen could both wind up with contracts approaching $100 million, while MLB Trade Rumors predicted a significantly more reasonable four-year, $52 million deal for Melancon.

    Even at $60 million over four years, the Giants should jump at the chance to add one of the game's best stoppers and steer clear of the market for Chapman and Jansen.

Seattle Mariners: SP C.J. Wilson

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    After pulling the trigger on a five-player deal that sent starter Taijuan Walker to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for shortstop Jean Segura, the Seattle Mariners are now in need of starting pitching help.

    "Our focus is on the pitching. We're very comfortable with our position players. We would like to find one more starting pitcher," GM Jerry Dipoto told MLB Network Radio.

    There are a bevy of options for the team to explore in a weak free-agent class and Doug Fister has been identified as one potential target, per Bob Dutton of the News Tribune.

    We're going to go a different route here, though, and suggest veteran C.J. Wilson.

    The 36-year-old missed all of 2016 nursing a labrum injury that eventually required surgery and his 2015 season was also cut short due to bone chips in his elbow, but he's expected to be healthy for the start of the upcoming season and is an intriguing bounce-back candidate.

    The left-hander was 8-8 with a 3.89 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 21 starts prior to being shelved in 2015 and he has a good track record at Safeco Field.

    In 14 starts and 18 relief appearances, he's gone 8-5 with a 2.95 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 92 strikeouts in 100.2 innings in Seattle's ballpark.

St. Louis Cardinals: CF Dexter Fowler

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    This one pains me as a Cubs fan, but Dexter Fowler is an obvious fit for a St. Louis Cardinals team in search of an upgrade in center field.

    The one-two punch of Fowler (.393 OBP) and Matt Carpenter (.380 OBP) at the top of the lineup would provide a ton of early run-scoring chances, while Fowler, 30, would also add a speed element that is somewhat lacking from the current roster.

    He'd also be an upgrade defensively, as signing him would allow the Cardinals to slide Randal Grichuk to left field and would improve the outfield defense as a whole after the likes of Matt Holliday and Brandon Moss manned left this past season.

    The icing on the cake of course would be signing Fowler away from the rival Cubs, after the Cardinals watched Jason Heyward and John Lackey head the other direction last winter.

    MLB Trade Rumors predicted a four-year, $64 million deal for Fowler, with the Cardinals as his predicted landing spot. With no other glaring needs, that would be money well spent.

Tampa Bay Rays: IF/OF Steve Pearce

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    The Tampa Bay Ray signed Steve Pearce to a one-year, $4.75 million deal last offseason, and that wound up being a nice bargain.

    The 33-year-old hit .309/.388/.520 with 11 doubles and 10 home runs in 232 plate appearances with the team before being shipped to the Baltimore Orioles at the deadline.

    On top of his offensive contributions, he also provided some nice value with his defensive versatility, seeing time at first, second, third and both corner outfield spots.

    According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Timesthe Rays have "serious interest" in bringing Pearce back this offseason and he looks like a good fit as they search for a right-handed bat.

    The lefty-swinging duo of Corey Dickerson (.589 OPS, 31.0% K rate) and Brad Miller (.682 OPS, 26.0% K rate) both struggled mightily against left-handed pitching last season, so bringing in a right-handed hitter who is capable of playing first base and the corner outfield is high up on the to-do list.

    Pearce would provide just that, and with MLB Trade Rumors predicting a two-year, $10 million deal, he fits the budget.

Texas Rangers: CF Ian Desmond

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    The Texas Rangers have a hole to fill in center field and a reunion with Ian Desmond makes a ton of sense for both sides.

    Desmond found somewhere he's comfortable after a trying final season with the Washington Nationals, while the Rangers found a terrific bargain on a one-year, $8 million deal.

    The 31-year-old slumped a bit after the All-Star break, but still finished with a .285/.335/.446 line that included 29 doubles, 22 home runs, 86 RBI and 21 steals for the fourth 20/20 season of his career.

    With Andrew Cashner signed to fill out the starting rotation, shoring up center field is the one clear remaining need for the Rangers to address this offseason.

    MLB Trade Rumors predicted a four-year, $60 million deal for Desmond. That seems reasonable given his production this past season and his upside over the length of that deal.

    Dexter Fowler will command a fair amount more money and there's a major drop-off on the center field market beyond those two, so unless the team is planning on exploring the trade market, re-upping with Desmond is the best move.

Toronto Blue Jays: RF Matt Joyce

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    John Konstantaras/Getty Images

    With a right-handed-heavy lineup and a need for corner outfield help following the departures of Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders, the Toronto Blue Jays look like a good landing spot for Matt Joyce.

    The 32-year-old thrived in a platoon role with the Pittsburgh Pirates last season, posting an .866 OPS with 10 doubles, 13 home runs and 42 RBI in 293 plate appearances after making the team as a non-roster invitee to spring training.

    Melvin Upton (.634 OPS vs. RHP, .874 OPS vs. LHP) looks like an obvious platoon partner, which would open up the other corner spot to another free-agent signing or some combination of Ezequiel Carrera and Dalton Pompey, who provide similar skill sets.

    Joyce should earn a nice raise over the $1 million base salary he made in 2016 and he's likely played his way into a multiyear deal.

    He'll still come relatively cheap, though, which would give the Blue Jays plenty of wiggle room to address the other corner outfield spot and the bullpen.

Washington Nationals: C Matt Wieters

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The Washington Nationals need to do something at the catcher position.

    Even if the team brings back Wilson Ramos, he won't be able to catch on a regular basis to start the season if at all in 2017 after suffering a torn ACL in September.

    Odds are Ramos walks and signs with an AL team where he can spend significant time as the DH, leaving the Nationals with an obvious hole to fill on an otherwise well-rounded roster.

    Jose Lobaton was the backup this past season and that's the role he's best suited in, while prospect Pedro Severino has the tools to be an everyday backstop down the road but still needs time to develop.

    Buster Olney of ESPN lists the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles as potential landing spots for Wieters. If it comes down to who is willing to offer up the most money, the Nationals could come out on top.

    Wieters doesn't grade out well as a pitch-framer, which has hurt his free-agent stock, but he does a nice job handling a staff and still has some of the better pop at the catcher position.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. Projected salaries courtesy of MLBTradeRumors. Contract information via Spotrac unless otherwise noted.


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